We deserve transparency. As a parent, I want to know what is going on in my kindergartener’s classroom and in the broader school community. I’ve been a journalist for two decades, and I’ve learned all too well that information is power. Whether the issue has to do with budget priorities, staffing decisions or changes in direction within the district, clear, complete and timely communication is absolutely essential. (Yes, I understand, too, there are some things that the board, by law, cannot discuss.) Yet, we need to have the best possible communication practices throughout the district, and we need a two-way flow of information to create a true dialogue between SOMSD and the community.
The South Orange-Maplewood School District can do better. With a proposal to create a new $35,000 website, it is critically important that the district address issues of cybersecurity, privacy, accessibility and user experience (UX). As part of the teams that relaunched websites at for WWD.com and Bank Street College of Education, I was deeply involved in helping to shape the online content organization, presentation and tone, as well as its management, and I can help SOMSD attain the world-class information portal that our media-wise, tech-savvy students and parents deserve — while also embodying the values of our village-and-township community.
In order to reflect the quantum leaps in how our society — and our children — communicate, it is also important to craft a multi-platform social media strategy to create and support a sense of community that is proactive and can communicate the district’s message. Parents and students throughout the district would also benefit from a unified district-wide messaging system instead of what is now a patchwork of apps.
Media strategy and strategic communications are key components for a district that is on the cusp of being, in essence, “relaunched” with the selection of a new superintendent, a proposed restructuring and capital-improvement projects that will likely transform our educational system in our two towns. Our school communities should have, when possible, advance notice of changes that will affect each campus, and parents should receive guidance when our children experience out-of-the-ordinary events, such as maintenance issues or lockdown drills. Although the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education is bound to follow the law with respect to public disclosures, the district must be proactive, not reactive, when transformative, newsworthy or controversial developments arise.